At the signing ceremony on Oct. 3 of Assembly Bill 1505, which makes major revisions to California’s charter school law, key players on the charter reform front — including those on opposing sides of the issue — provided their insights into the reforms, and their potential impact going forward. As a public service, EdSource is publishing a partial transcript of their remarks, which have been edited for clarity.
Gov. Gavin Newsom
This has not been an easy journey. The dispute, the anxiety, the consternation related to the issues of charter schools go back now decades in the state of California. This is the most comprehensive reform in close to 30 years, arguably since the charter law was approved in 1992. And it is appropriate that we’re here in the spirit that unites us because we recognize this journey does not end today. I’m not naive about this piece of legislation solving all the problems and now everybody goes back and holds hands in perpetuity.
We will continue to have to work together, build trust, work across our differences, address issues as they come up, address intended and unintended consequences of our actions. No one is naive. There are many different parts of this legislation that we believe will work in the best interest of our kids, but it may turn out the practical application requires some adjustments. But that’s the spirit again, that I’m speaking to at this moment. I want to maintain that level of collaboration and cooperation.
I want to thank the superintendent of public instruction (Tony Thurmond). That was not an easy task to be tasked with trying to bring people together to initiate this process through the task force. Tony , thank you for taking the baton and doing it in the way you did with the respect that you were able to garner from all sides of this and really sort of start the conversation anew.
To the Assembly members, it’s wonderful to have an interaction that we had. It’s hard to describe the amount of meetings, the conversations back and forth.
But look, this is what governance is about. This is not what campaigns are about. It’s not what politics is about. It is what policy-making is about. The hard, gritty work of actually doing something, moving that needle and making a difference. And I think that we are making a difference in millions and millions of kids that were in the direct line and then indirectly impacted by some of these tangential disputes that continued to fester, became front and center in our public education debate. Hopefully this will pull them to the back, not in the front, of those debates. We can start focusing on — I haven’t signed it yet, bonds on the ballot — things that unite all of us and the need to find additional funding for public education, address the needs of the disparities and achievement gaps and opportunity gaps that persist. Not only on the basis of race or ethnicity, but the special needs, English as a second language learners need support. We recognize the enormous amount of work to do.
So thank all of you. (turning to California Teacher Association president E Toby Boyd and California Charter School Association president Myrna Castrejón) The fact you two are standing together makes me proud as a Californian. I’m serious about that. And I’ve been looking forward to this moment from the day that you (Tony Thurmond) and I had that first conversation and said we need to prioritize this. Because you know, Tony, I shared similar fates as it relates to the campaign. I think both of us coming from that process, both said, we can rise above this. If we don’t, and we decide to internalize things, we just fester. We’ve got enough of that in Washington, D.C., and this is in closing a very significant mark of contrast to the animosity and animus that dominates our political discourse on a national basis. I’m proud of California today. And I’m proud of all you guys for making this happen.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond
Thank you for the opportunity to lead your Charter School Task Force. Thank you to all the stakeholders who participated in this conversations, both in the Legislature and in the task force. In the task force, we always started our conversations about, “How do we look at charter reform through the lens of what’s best for kids?” And I believe that AB 1505 does just that. It listens to the needs of school districts and authorizers to be able to weigh fiscal impacts, community impacts before making a decision whether or not to authorize a charter school. At the same time, it listens to applicants who have said, we need to have a clear path to know how renewal will happen. This legislation is long overdue. I want to thank all of the stakeholders, all the legislators, the governor, the authors for their hard work.
Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, author of AB 1505
I would like to work with the Charter Schools Association instead of against them every year. And I think when we look at per pupil funding, there’s a real opportunity there. I would love it if the Charter Schools Association would show up at committee hearings and a budget committee hearing and advocate for more funding per student.
So again, I want to have those conversations and I’d love to work together so that we can serve all California students.
Myrna Castrejón, president and CEO, California Charter Schools Association
Thank you, Governor Newsom, for bringing us together to announce a new chapter in California public education for this signing. AB 1505, affirms that high-quality charter schools are here to stay and that the charter model — one that embraces accountability in exchange for the flexibility to innovate — is worth protecting and is of tremendous value to the students we serve and so to many families that are still eager to find better access to a high quality public education regardless of the model.
AB 1505 also recognizes that existing and future charter schools are a critical lever to close California’s continuing and persistent achievement gap. This historic legislation should serve as a bookend to other major statutory changes enacted over the past two years making California’s charter schools some of the most transparent and equitable in the country. These are all efforts that CCSA has proudly supported: banning for-profit charters; strengthening admissions protections and due process rights for charter students; and evenly applying California’s open meetings, public records, and conflict of interest laws in charter schools.
We are hopeful that AB 1505 coupled with all of these other statutory changes, will re-enforce once and for all that charter schools are playing by the same fundamental rules of the road as all public schools and continue to be deserving of the freedom and flexibility to innovate so long as they continue to perform and that in California we believe that the charter model is worth protecting. Above all else, we believe that AB 1505 declares that all of us believe that students can learn at high levels and questions about whether charter schools are serving kids — all kids — are addressed in an appropriate response in AB 1505. And that they are serving all kids and doing so successfully. Let’s celebrate and learn together from that model.
I want to thank Governor Newsom for creating a space for us all — Assemblymember O’Donnell, the leadership at CTA and Superintendent Thurmond — to come together in the service of coexistence and collaboration. We look forward to turning our collective attention to investing in lifting up and holding all public schools to higher standards for strong educational outcomes for all students. California students cannot wait.
E. Toby Boyd, president, California Teachers Association
Today’s a good day for the 6.4 million students of California. Working together, we made monumental changes to improve outdated and broken charter school laws. For far too long, students and taxpayers have paid the price. We proudly appreciate Assemblyman O’Donnell and the governor for their hard work and leadership commitment to fixing these flawed laws.
Today we see the fruit of the labor of educators, parents, social justice advocates, community groups and our union partners. I want to recognize CFT, SEIU, CSEA and the state labor fed who are here with us today. I want to thank the thousands of educators who talked to their lawmakers and rallied here at the Capitol. After years of trying to fix these laws to hold all taxpayer-funded schools to the same high standard in quality and transparency, we’ve made significant progress on behalf of our students.
AB 1505 strengthens the decision-making power of local school boards regarding all matters related to authorization and renewal of charter schools. It allows local school boards to consider the fiscal impact of charters on current programs, like class size, and makes sure all students have enough counselors and nurses to ensure our students are receiving a quality education. Students in charter schools will now be taught by fully credentialed teachers. We’re hitting the pause button on the two-year moratorium for non-classroom-based charters and this mandate will allow us to review, to ensure that the new laws are having the intended impact for students.
These are major changes and we’re ready for the work that remains ahead. Again, on behalf of the 310,000 educators who work with students every day, a heartfelt thanks to Assemblymember O ‘Donnell and to Governor Newsom. I also want to recognize Assemblymember Christy Smith who sponsored AB 1507, which closes a loophole that allows a charter school to operate in districts where it is not authorized and, of course, Assemblymembers McCarty and Bonta. And I can’t forget the SPI Tony Thurmond. This is a historic day. I thank each of you for your passion and commitment to providing all the students with the quality education they deserve.